French national Benjamin Briere, 35, who has now been detained in Iran for 10 months, is facing charges of “espionage and propaganda against the regime” after questioning the country’s mandatory hijab policy and taking photographs with a drone in “forbidden areas,” said Brier’s lawyer Saeid Dehghan Monday.
“Reason for espionage charge: The French tourist was photographing in forbidden areas! The reason for the accusation of propaganda: raising the question in the media why the hijab is ‘mandatory’ in the Islamic Republic but ‘optional’ in other Islamic countries,” said Dehghan.
In February, nine months after Briere was arrested for flying a drone near the Iran-Turkmenistan border, Dehghan said that Brier was being held based on “contradictory and false accusations” and that the regime was not allowing his lawyers “access to the content of the case.”
Briere is currently being held in Vakilabad Prison in Mashhad, Iran.
“The international community should be outraged at this latest action from the Iranian Regime,” said Iranian Americans for Liberty Executive Director Bryan E. Leib to The Foreign Desk.
“Only in Iran does it take 10 months to officially charge an individual with a made-up crime. Hostage taking has become a business for the Iranian regime and a preferred means of negotiations with the West. We call on the international community to raise their voices and to speak out against the regime.”
Abdorrahman Boroumand Center Co-Founder and Executive Director Roya Boroumand echoes the sentiment that the Islamic Republic has grown accustomed to using hostage taking as a means for monetary gain and political manipulation and calls on the international community to amplify consequences for the regime’s behavior.
“Benjamin Briere is one of the many foreign nationals who were or are being held as hostages in Iran. So far, hostage taking has paid off. There have been no consequences that would lead Iranian officials to reflect on hostage taking, let alone deter them from taking hostages. The international community can and should increase the cost of the Islamic Republic’s authorities’ decades-old hostage taking policy,” Boroumand said to The Foreign Desk.
France is signatory to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, and it is yet to be determined if Briere’s detainment will influence their participation in the JCPOA or the Biden administration’s decision to re-enter the deal, which Trump withdrew from in 2018.
The Biden administration has been playing what many are calling a ‘game of chicken’ with the Iranian regime, both parties waiting for the other to take the first step towards compliance with the original nuclear deal; however, Tehran has only continued to expand its breaches of the nuclear agreement since negotiations with the U.S. began shortly after Biden’s inauguration.
While the Biden administration has yet to release an official statement addressing Briere’s case, Leib believes “the Biden Administration should be among the first to speak out against this egregious crime against humanity.”
People are regularly jailed and often executed in Iran based on unfounded accusations of spying or opposition to the regime, and it common for women to face over 20 years in prison for failing to comply with the regime’s compulsory hijab policy, the policy Briere is being called a “propagandist” for questioning.